Help me dream up compartments for my Jet Age entertainment console


In July, I'm moving into the ground floor of a row house in Bushwick, Brooklyn, along with some friends. It'll be the first time I've lived with roommates in about seven years, but I'm really looking forward to it. (I'm sure I'll be talking about my friends in the future, but suffice it to say they're a bunch of devious, crafty types.)

We're dreaming up all sorts of stuff to do with the house — a wood shop and an electronics shop are already marked out — but before I move all my stuff into the new place, I want to take some time to prepare my bedroom for maximal relaxation. I love my friends dearly, but it's the nature of sharing a living space: you've got to have a great nook to call your own.

I'll have an office space like I have now in my apartment, but more and more I've been working just out of my laptop. I don't expect that to change. So I want to try to integrate my entertainment gear — a big LCD HDTV, videogame consoles, and a Windows gaming PC — into my bedroom. At my current place, all that stuff lives on a desk in my bedroom, but it dominates the room. I plan on being in this new space for the foreseeable future, so I'd like to do something better.

Hence, a false wall entertainment center. It's a "false wall" because I intend to mask it as a large console. In fact, my whole bedroom is going to try to be of a theme, sort of a Jet Age operations lounge. Think mid-century modern submarine captain or evil genius in lounge wear. But I'm not going for kitsch, per se, but more a theme. More movie set than collection of tchotchkes.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The theme will come together in time, probably after I move in. I've already been scouting out sources of paneling and wood. (I will probably end up cobbling a lot of it from reclaimed furniture and repurposed Ikea hardware.)

What I need to figure out now is infrastructure. What I actually want the whole thing to do. That way I can go ahead and frame in the structural bits and then add the visual (and perhaps literal) veneer later.

Above is my very rough sketch. I'll probably just use 2x4s and cheap pine (or some pressboard bookshelves) for the structure itself. Probably about two feet deep. But I need to start thinking about power, conduits, heat management, all that good stuff. And most of all what I want it to do. Do I want little blinkenlight consoles? A trap-door that reveals a secret uniform? A panel that, when depressed, slides up to reveal rocks glasses and a bottle of bourbon?

I thought you guys might like to chime in. If you could start building a secret spy console in your bedroom, what functions and features would you add? (I don't mind chrome for the sake of it, but the more functional, the better.)

Inspiration: The Incredibles, Venture Bros., Eames-era whatever, analog gauges, the Worgelt Study, Disney's Adventurer's Club, early Syd Mead U.S. Steel and Phillips concepts, this wall, early NASA.

Join the Conversation


  1. Roommates? OBVIOUSLY a lock on the “Bourbon Panel” is mandatory. Let it only open when your laptop is in the room AND you send the encrypted signal! 🙂

    I will think further on your situation and report my findings.

  2. Mine isn’t futuristic, but I think it works well.

    42″ Plasma with a custom built in storage area for all the gear. In-wall surround speakers. Behind the TV is a Mac Mini as media server, Sony 7.1 surround amp, Sonos, EyeTV, 300GB NAS drive, 1TB media drive, Home Automation system, Cable Box, UPS.

    Here’s one image:

    A close up:

    Amp & Sonos:

    And Mac Mini:

    I love the design as the plasma looks like a framed painting over the fireplace, and all the cables are hidden.

  3. Obviously, if you’re going to be living with roommates, that big question mark needs to be filled with your own fridge.

  4. I’d conceal all the shelves behind flipper doors, and install each shelf on full-extension glides so that it’s easy to get at the cabling in back.

    I would have a Murphy bed to liberate floor space, and a bench that folds down from the bed’s facade when it’s upright.

    The wall console would include a nook for a chair that, when fitted into it, seemed like part of the console.

  5. to agraham999 (and anyone else who does this)

    Do you enjoy craning your neck up to watch your TV that is mounted so high above your fireplace? I just don’t get why people do this.

  6. To AKBAR56

    The TV is on a articulating arm. It can be lifted away from the wall and down. Our sofa also has a high back so it really isn’t an issue.

  7. Is the unit really going to be two feet deep? A couple of strictly functional suggestions, then:
    1) Make sure those shelves on the left are adjustable, and consider getting at least some shelves that are much shallower, like 8-9″ or even a paperback-friendly 4.5″. It is very easy to lose things on a 2′ deep shelf!
    2)If you plan to have a bunch of paperbacks, you can alternate 9″ shelves with 4.5″ in a stairstep arrangement so that the top of the 4.5″ shelves is level with the top of paperbacks on the 9″ shelves. The paperbacks on the 9″ shelf will sit out in front of the 4.5″ shelf, giving you some hidden storage room.
    3) How is the room fixed for closet space? That space in the middle would be an excellent auxiliary closet (particularly for costumes, uniforms, tuxes, etc).
    4) If the shelving unit is 2′ deep you are going to have some extra space behind the flatscreen TV. That would be a great place for one or more hidden compartments- either swinging the whole TV assembly out of the way or a skinny slide-out drawer/shelf like this one that opens out to the side (to the right if there’s room, or into the central section). This also might be a good way to make the shelves on the left a little shallower without actually sacrificing storage space.
    5) I see someone beat me to mentioning a fridge, but a mini-fridge or wine vault is definitely a good plan, for both roommate food segregation and mini-bar purposes.
    6) Where is the door in this room? If either end abuts a traffic flow area, consider rounded corners (space age-y too, for bonus points).

  8. Thats good then. I just weep for the people who dont have that option and get their TV mounted so high because it seems to be the trendy thing to do.

  9. I’d love to this sort of thing in our Bedroom. With the imminent arrival of a minimoose, mrs moose has decreed that my den/office/music studio is surplus to requirements, and it’s being repurposed as a nursery of all things.

    In exchange, I’ve been given a cubbyhole in our oddly shaped bedroom which would be ideal for something like this. Sadly, I’ve been limited to a simple desk and wall mounted tv as mrs moose fears for our home’s resale value if my masculine creativity is let loose.

    I’ll just have to dream.

  10. +1 on the suggestion of the Murphy bed, but I’m wondering what the ceiling is like (height; popcorn, tiled, plaster etc).

    Alas, there are no pictures of it, but when I was a kid, my dad built a great little finished loft/room into our garage, which had this huge, high ceiling (and a ton of otherwise wasted space.)

    With what you’re describing here (I’m imagining a riff on the Hunt For Red October bridge set), monitors & speakers would be well positioned above you. That way, it would be possible to carry the theme over to the rest of the room. Specifically, I’m thinking of a descending drink carrier/distributor, rather than one that pops up.

    Also (feel free to ignore this one), you might consider painting the room a dark color, then embedding leds (or christmas lights) in rows/clusters. Put in enough of them and you may not have to worry about a single source of light.

    Pictures when done, pretty please?

  11. Hi mi Name is Marcos I”m cabinet Maker and designer. I read you post, if you send me the mesurement of the place, I can do something nice no copy from another site, something custom.

  12. i’d put the tv in the center, and build in room for speakers on the two sides. maybe they extend& swing out of the system to focus, and then can be nuzzled into it at other times.

  13. It, of course, needs to have a secret panel that opens slowly (linear actuators, gas pistons, etc.) to reveal a vast array of weapons and/or antiquities, mounted pegboard style.

    Also, I like your chair scribble.

  14. I like the idea of flip-up doors for the compartments as well as the idea about smaller shelves for books. You could split some shelves so that you could have books towards the front of the shelf on their own shelf which you can pull out and down to reveal the rest of the shelf space behind it. I’m not crafty enough to figure out how this would work exactly, but somebody on the BB readership should be able to design it.

    Extra closet space would be nice. Unless the home has been redone recently, you probably have a pitiful closet, and living without sufficient closet space is maddening. (I’m having that problem now in my 1920s house in Austin. Apparently, closets were a new concept back then and nobody had gotten it right yet.) Space for dirty laundry is also quite nice.

    I second the idea about needing private fridge space. Even good friends bogart your snacks. Plus, if you can get midnight snacks with minimal travel, it disrupts your sleep less.

    Perhaps separately from the wall itself, if you could make one of those giant masks like the one in the Adventurer’s Club that opened to provide secret storage, that would be sweet. Perhaps this could be the location of you bourbon stash?

    If your bed will be close enough to easily access the wall, the miscellaneous crap that lives on your nightstand could be concealed. A pull-out table for a glass of water, book, and alarm clock would be pretty neat too. If your setup is not going to allow access to these compartments from your bed, this thing is pretty sweet: I love the idea of a headboard with stealth bookshelves inside. If you built it yourself, you could make part of the shelves pull forward once they’re out so it would be next to your bed.

    While you’re at it, underbed storage is amazingly space saving, if not as cool and Jetsons as the project you’re proposing.

    Docking stations for all of your portable electronics would be nice too.

  15. First, the Ikea link above is broken (I suspect an extraneous period). Here’s the correct one.

    Second, download a free copy of Front Panel Designer (sorry, Windows only, but you can always run it on your gaming PC). It’s a dirt simple graphics program that lets you design panels containing switches, lights, receptacles, etc. with whatever obscure labels and extraneous text you can imagine professionally etched in. Then click Order and your design is sent to the company in Seattle which will cut it out for you on their CNC router, in anodized aluminum in your choice of color and thickness. The program will price your order for you in various quantities before you commit. Not exactly cheap, but no well-appointed lair is complete without properly designed and fabbed aluminum panels.

    Third, download a free copy of Google SketchUp (Mac or PC) to do a proper 3D design of this thing. A must when designing hidden compartments, so you can see if they hit anything when opening/closing.

    Fourth, consider putting the A/V components you don’t need regular, physical access to behind the HDTV to save space, and use flashers (like these) to route the remote control signals to them.

    Fifth, when I was in college I hacked the door to my dorm room with a reverse mounted screen-door closer and a solenoid on the doorknob so that whenever someone knocked on the door I could push a button under my desk and the door would open with a “woosh” straight out of Star Trek. It wouldn’t close itself, but the stunned expression on people’s faces when they saw me sitting across the room was priceless. May be a little dorky for what you have in mind, but if you want more details, let me know.

  16. Interestingly enough, I’ve just begun work on a smaller version of this in Hamilton Heights as a result of seeing Doc’s Aviator keyboards, I just finished my silent PC build and am in the midst of a Deco/Space-Age theme mod to the case and my own homebuilt variant on a Model M.

    Some of the research I’ve looked at for a while:

    Eames, I think one of his clocks is manditory, has some great wall decals, both in Eames and, my fave, their “Organic” pattern
    Futurama and the NYC World’s Fairs for computers and cases

    Personally, this age always is about switches and dials and meters that move. Toggle switches should be plunked anywhere, bonus points for LEDs that turn on when switched, extra mega bonus for having them actually do something.

    Chrome is always a nice touch, if budget is a concern, look at vinyl sheets with adhesive. They’ll go on quickly and can be used as decorative elements. I wouldn’t recommend covering a large portion with them, as it’ll be seen for what it is faster, but elements that work with the wood or other chosen finishes will give some highlights without giving it all away.

    If budget is not a concern, I know of a prototype factory where you e-mail them 3D CAD, they send you a chrome-plated piece. Or, you can always just have someone down there bust out a sand mold over the weekend. 🙂

  17. buy a cheap-ass air conditioner (as silent as possible) build a cubby with drip tray and tank, power supply and bent tin plenum on the output. From the plenum, divide into as many inch and one half/two inch flexy hoses as possible (make a hydra)
    run the cold air output hoses as required to assorted consumer electronics after you find out which overheat the most. Or flat ducting? Don’t forget dust filters.

  18. What I’ve wanted to do for years along these lines is build my own stereo components. But, not being a true enough audio-phile, I haven’t mustered the time to tackle the problem properly. However! I believe that a metallic control panel with lots of toggle switches, large bakelite knobs, and as mentioned already, meters, is the answer to your Central Hi-Fi Entertainment Console needs! Perhaps there is even a ‘remote’ panel (with a long metal-mesh covered cable) that allows minimal control from the comfort of your Rest and Recreation Pod…

    (ooh! just thought of this: a canopy bed in the style on those ‘egg’ chairs! you could do the shell out of paper mache, but fiberglass would give a smoother surface.)

    This is all what happens when you let an underemployed cabinetmaker’s mind wander…

  19. My two cents:
    Don’t try to hide anything you use (tv, console) regulary with doors or panels. You just end up with leaving them open. Unless you automize them to respond tv’s remote.
    Maybe some of those webcam softwares that regonize face… Tv comes out and powers up when you look at it.

  20. I humbly suggest a smallish (maybe 9″ square) disguised panel anywhere you have a bit of free space.

    Behind this panel is a lockable switch (I can’t find a decent image; it’s a switch or toggle that requires turning a key or entering a PIN before it can be pressed) marked with appropriate warning signs.

    You open the secret panel, produce a key to unlock the switch, press it and depending on your preference:

    a) Have it hooked up to a lighting state controller — lights dim, TV turns off and Barry White starts oozing from the stereo. By far the most entertaining way to ruin a date that’s got this far.

    b) It releases the catch on another hidden door, revealing your tuxeudo, dress shoes, cufflinks, laser watch and pack of explosive Mentos.

    c) Nothing much happens. Just eye your guests mysteriously and inform them that you could tell them why you needed to push the secret button, but then you’d have to kill them.

  21. I think you need one of those clear glass map/writing surfaces to plot out the sure-to-happen missions or retaliation that will result from having roommates. It could go where the question mark is or in the middle of the room (be careful not to walk into it. And it has to be one that lights up as the kind that don’t are worthless.
    Also, that bit on the left needs to be way bigger if you intend it for books. You can’t have too many books.

  22. Alberto Frias has some nice nice stuff to get some ideas from; definitely check out the Transport bed and 3sum Illuminated Pod couch. Also look at the Lomme Bed.

    Ambient LED strip lighting systems can give you a modern look and allow you to go from mood lighting to enough light to read by; having multiple strips would also give you a reason to have a bank of SPST toggle switches. Graffiti Research Labs have an instructable on how to use conductive & magnetic paint or tape to create strips of movable LED lights. Instructables has any number of other videos on making your own LED lighting systems.

    If you like the idea of hiding your Bourbon & Rocks Glasses behind a Tribal Mask I’d suggest one of Bosko’s Masks or Shields; Bosko also sells Polynesian Pop Posts, Poles, Trim & Signs, he’ll handle custom orders, and he’s an all around great guy.

    To me Mid-Century Modern speakers will always be large, walnut veneered, and fronted with brown grille cloth. If you have much smaller speakers you could mount them inside of larger fake speaker boxes.

  23. Hack A Day has a cool RGB Combination Lock to lock up your console’s compartment doors. Instead of a combination of numbers or other positional markers you press the buttons that turn the next expected color, making it more difficult for someone to memorize your combination. (found via io9)

  24. I would avoid using LEDs as a light source here for reading. They’re about 5-10 years away from that. Lumens per watt of a good color-rendering warm white is about equal to an incandescent. If you just want color-changing accents, that’s where they’re great. Just not for general light at this point.

    For small shelf lighting, have a look at Tokistar’s linear warm white LEDs. Low voltage, so once you get past the transformer, NYC code can’t mandate conduit. and have a look at their “cable light” series, should be small enough to recess in the edge of the shelf above. This will be a LOT of detail work however.

    I always like to have a source behind the television so it’s not in this dark hole. Something linear running vertically and dimmable will be the key here.

    For the big ? in the middle, I always need more closet space in my cramped apartment, think about some nice swing doors to hide all that crap when you need to in a hurry.

    As for chrome highlights, have a look at this brushed chrome film. Inexpensive solution, and I can’t guarantee it’s going to be the best looking thing, but it might work well on top of some masonite.

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